Thursday, February 20, 2014

Album Review: Beck- Morning Phase

Morning Phase
***and1/2 out of *****
Even before the music rises on Morning Phase the album art recalls Beck's most introspective release 2002's Sea Change. It is also being marketed as a companion piece to that album and instantly sets the reflective mood. In 2014 Beck is more nuanced but not much more upbeat; there is a melancholy feeling that seeps into everything here.

What can't be over stated is Beck's growing stature as a producer. The music, production, texture and layering of various instruments voices and sounds is astonishing; this is simply an amazing sounding album. While the song writing seems stuck in an icy box of loner-ism the music (provided by his long time collaborators guitarist Smokey Hormel, bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen, keyboard player Roger Joseph Manning Jr. and drummer Joey Waronker) comes alive, supported as well by layers of strings and vocals constructing a musical depth that requires repeated listens to soak it all in.

Beck has said he wanted to make a "California music album" when discussing Morning Phase. While tracks like "Blackbird Chain" resemble the country ease mixed with pop that California has been known for, there is a distance that is more reminiscent of Neil Young's On The Beach, recorded in Cali, but not always thought of when "California sound" is mentioned.

"Wave" is the albums centerpiece and built on a humming string foundation Beck repeats the phrase "Isolation" coldly over and over again in a foreboding manner. This doesn't feel like a lost soul it presents someone who has chosen to be isolated. Same can be said for "Don't Let It Go" which comes from a place of experience, yet Beck by design never seems to let the listener in as if he is already too far gone.

The first single "Blue Moon" is the most upbeat track here, along with "Heart Is A Drum" but things are still very very mellow, his first line in "Blue Moon" says it all, "I'm so tired of being low". There are flashes of drums and strums but things all over Morning Phase are sleepy and relaxed, moving too easily into distant and cold. The production and sonic sounds are stunningly gorgeous yet Beck still seems to be on the outside looking in emotionally.   
Honestly? We never dug on Sea Change and until that point, loved Beck. Morning Phase is well constructed, professional, and serves a purpose...just not sure how often we are going to go back and listen to it. The rating and stars for this one is tough, waffled between 3 and 3 and 1/2 but in the end it doesn't matter...  

That said support the artist here, buy the album here and peep some video below:


  1. I can't wait to listen to this album. I wasn't really into Sea Change as a whole when it came out, but I recently gave it another listen in anticipation of this new album, and I was really impressed with how well it has held up. Getting older has also made me appreciate the tired melancholy of it more too. It's Beck's Tunnel of Love.

  2. Yeah this one is tough, I love the production, this and Thurstons last solo disk Beck proves he is a world class producer. Lyrics and song wise though I am pretty damn let down...and it always frightens me a bit when the Pitchfork peeps and I agree on things.